All eyes will be on Gerrit Cole this afternoon, as the Pirates try to overcome their 1-0 deficit to the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-five NLDS.
But let's not forget the hitters. The poor performance of A.J. Burnett in the 9-1 loss last night took the focus of the offense, but it registered only one run, a homer by Pedro Alvarez, and four hits. The hitters were almost as big a disappointment as Burnett and the indecisive Clint Hurdle.
Adam Wainwright, who pitched seven innings for St. Louis, is a big-time pitcher but the Pirates had done well against him in the past. Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Russell Martin and Clint Barmes went into the game batting a combined .378 (34-for-90) with three homers and 13 RBIs against Wainwright. Last night, they were .154 (2-for-13) with McCutchen getting both hits.
Lance Lynn, 15-10, 3.97 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, starts for St. Louis this afternoon (1.07 p.m., MLB Network) and the Pirates hitters need to do better. Lynn is 4-2 in his career against the Pirates but with a 5.03 ERA and a .768 OPS-against. In five starts against the Pirates this season, Lynn has a 5.60 ERA. In his two most recent starts, both in August, he pitched 9 1/3 innings and allowed 18 hits and 11 runs.
Lynn, however, is coming off his best month of the season. He was 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA and a .236 BAA in September.
This afternoon's game is extremely crucial. If the Pirates lose and go down, 0-2, they are just about finished. If they win to even the series, they gain the advantage with the next two games at PNC Park and with Francisco Liriano scheduled to pitch Game 3.
Cole, 10-7, 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, has never pitched against St. Louis. He was the Pirates top pitcher in the final month of the season, going 4-0 in five starts with a 1.69 ERA and a .212 BAA.
After some early struggles, he looked more like the ace he had long been projected to be. Cole was the first player taken in the 2011 draft. In June, July and August, Cole has a K/9 rate of 6.43, which is sub-par. In September it was 10.97, which is excellent for a starting pitcher.
Cole has never faced an offense as potent as the one the Cardinals present. They led the National League in runs with 783, a whopping 77 more than runner-up Colorado.
The difference maker for St. Louis is its incredible ability to produce with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals batted .330 with an .865 OPS in RISP situations. The second-best numbers in the NL in those categories were .254 and .744. Individually, among those with more than 25 at bats in RISP situations, St. Louis hitters ranked 1, 4, 5, 6, 7. 9 and 10 (Allen Craig, out for the series, Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Daniel Descalso, Tony Cruz).
How important is RISP success? The Cardinals have only 26 more RISP at bats than the Pirates but they produced 189 more runs. The Pirates were 14th in the NL in RISP batting average at .229.
With no one on base, the Cardinals are 12th in batting average.